Tips and Tricks

Tips for Patchwork Quilting: Farm Girl Vintage Sew Along

I still classify myself as a new quilter.  I’ve been sewing for years but didn’t start quilting until less than a year ago.  So the book Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt is my first attempt at patchwork quilting.  This book has so may cute blocks like chickens, a sheep, cherries, a pumpkin, a strawberry, and a farmhouse just to name a few.  I’m from South Carolina so this is right up my alley.  I don’t live on a farm but I do consider myself a country girl 🙂

Lori hosts a sew along on her blog, Bee In My Bonnet, and she posts frequently on Instagram (@beelori1) with the most amazing photos.  She showcases two blocks per week from the book and shows how she used them in projects (and even a few extra ideas for the block itself).  The sew along part comes from following along with the blog and making the blocks Lori features each week.   Some quilters post each block they make on Instagram using the hashtag for that particular block.  So the “goal” is to follow along with Lori’s blog but there’s no rules or deadlines so going at your own pace is fine.

Since I don’t really have a “fabric stash” I found a Olie’s Shoppe on Etsy and they had a listing with everything I needed to get started.  It included 5, 1 yard cuts of Riley Blake Swiss Dots fabric in different colors as well as fat quarter bundles from Lori’s Modern Minis fabric line and 30’s Minis by Erin Turner for Riley Blake fabrics.  (I don’t see that listing anymore but other sellers may be offering something similar) I also added to the collection with fat quarters from Jo-Ann’s.

Now onto the things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Use Starch-Starching the fabric before cutting it makes a world of difference! Seams lay flatter and are more accurate when the fabric has a stiffness to it.  And I use a lot of starch, I spray until it is pretty well soaked then I iron it.  It’s important to spray the fabric before cutting it.  The fabric will shrink just a little when it’s ironed.  And I had some fabric bleed onto my ironing table but it was cheap quilting cotton from Hancock Fabrics so I’m sure that’s why.  I haven’t had any issues with quilt shop quality fabrics. (Note: I was asked about prewashing fabric.  I don’t pre-wash any of my fabric so it’s going to shrink some.  I would imagine if you pre-wash fabric it wouldn’t really
  2. Set a short stitch length-I set my stitch length at 1.6 and that seems to be working really well.  You need the tighter stitches when you’re working with such small pieces.
  3. Use a size 11 (75) needle-I found after experimenting with needle sizes that the size 11 worked better than the size 14 (90) needle.  Every little thing makes a difference in the seam allowance and believe it or not the needle size plays a part.
  4. Use a pencil or very fine tip pen to draw your lines– You’ll see the sentence “Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the fabric __ squares.”  I use a mechanical pencil to draw my diagonal lines for half square triangles and flying geese.  Using a marker or something with a thick line will throw off the seam allowance and any little bit it’s off by will show on these intricate blocks.
  5. Slow Down– I keep the speed setting on my sewing machine just under half speed and use the foot pedal to go even slower than that on smaller seams.  I find it’s easier to control the stitch line to get straighter stitches.
  6. Have a design board-A design board is a piece of foam core board that’s been covered in batting.  Fabric will stick to the batting like felt.  It makes it a lot easier to carry your cut and labeled fabric pieces to and from the cutting are and sewing machine. Here’s a YouTube video on how to make one:

  1. Buy or make alphabet tags-The fabric pieces in each block are labeled in the book with a letter.  It’s important to keep those pieces organized along the way with labels.  I use the Alphabitties from the Fat Quarter Shop.
  2. Press all seams open-This is something I must admit I hated doing at first.  It’s time consuming but very necessary when a block has as many seams as these do.  It’s another reason to have a shorter stitch length as well.   I use a creaser tool from Missouri Star Quilt Company to help open the seams and press them open.
  3. Check that 1/4″ seam allowance on your presser foot-Having the exact 1/4″ seam allowance is crucial and will be easier with practice.  One way to test your 1/4″ presser foot is to cut 3, 1.5″ strips and sew them together lengthwise.  The middle strip should measure exactly 1″.  If it doesn’t figure out how you need to change how you line your fabric up on the presser foot and try again until you have the perfect placement. Here’s an example of a seam allowance being off by the smallest bit.  Notice how the rows just don’t quite line up. With this block I got helpful advice from a fellow instagram user (@stuphfromsteph) to try another method.  My second attempt was much more successful.
  4.  Practice makes perfect– Even with these tips I find the more blocks I make the happier I am with the result.  You just have to keep sewing!
Share this:

Leave a Reply